November 28, 2015

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First Mediaworks

11/04/02 My Labor Of Love
I saw a new vision for Radio — a world where Radio could expand into new technology and our industry could grow in new ways. You remember how it was. The whole dot-com thing was like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, and I was just one of the many who were sucked in. My Internet vision was for top advertisers to move into Radio by having their own Internet stations, branded with their own names and focused on the needs of their core customer base.

I tried to marry the Internet to Radio. But no matter how sincere the matchmaker, sometimes the marriage doesn’t take. Hundreds of you came to San Jose and Boston to learn about this exciting new part of our industry at Radio Ink’s Radio Internet conferences. Then I raised $18 million to start an Internet company that would build Radio stations for brands. I hired Steve Rivers and Sean Demory to head our programming department, and with a stellar crew of engineers and programmers, we developed the technology to give our online stations the high-quality fidelity of “real” Radio.

The technology was written up by several news organizations as “the best Internet Radio technology on the Net.” Our personality-driven stations didn’t sound like Internet Radio. We had huge success in the early stages. Our Earthlink Radio and Lycos Radio brands quickly became two of the most listened-to online networks. We sold advertising for cash and were about to pole-vault one of the big three auto manufacturers into Radio when it became clear that CARP was not going to rule in our favor, and the whole thing came to a screeching halt. One ruling killed the business, put my 50 employees out of work and flushed $18 million in investor capital. Yes, I had a bad day.

Some people say I abandoned Radio. And that hurts most of all. In my own mind, I was never trying to do anything but expand our industry and prove to the big advertisers, once and for all, the branding power of sound.

But Radio Ink is my labor of love. In several of the years that I’ve published this magazine, there have been many times where I’ve had to personally absorb tens of thousands of dollars in losses because of my conviction that Radio deserves its own first-class, full-color trade publication. A publisher who was “strictly business” would have shut it down, but I believed that if I hung in long enough, people would see the value. The song of my heart has been to make Radio Ink into the kind of friend that could look Radio squarely in the eye and say the kinds of things that only a friend can say. In that endeavor, Radio Ink has tried to supply you with the fresh ideas, the encouragement and the training that many of your own companies are no longer providing.

Do you love this business as I do? Do you believe that Radio deserves no less than 30 percent of all media dollars spent? Are you tired of eating the crumbs that fall onto the floor from the banqueting tables of newspaper, television and Yellow Pages? If so, will you share a few of your thoughts with me in a brief letter or e-mail? I know that I’m not the only person in America who still believes that Radio’s best years lie ahead, but I’ve got to admit that sometimes it feels that way.

— Eric Rhoads

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